Yes, IBOL could be a complete scam

There, I said it.  It’s true.  IBOL could be a complete scam.

The issue came up in IBOL I — how can anyone know that IBOL is legitimate?  How can anyone know that the stuff sent will actually get into the hands of Iraqis?  How can anyone know for sure that it’s not all just some scam?

The short answer is, well, there is no way to know for sure.  I claim I’m a guy in Hawaii, blogging and posting information, passing along an APO address that I claim is in Iraq, making claims that if you send things to that address, someone there will do good with what you send.

So, let’s talk about it.  I think there are two ways to look at this.

1.  Wow, this would be an elaborate hoax. The IBOL website sure has a lot of stuff on it.  There sure are a lot of other websites linking to IBOL, with a lot of people talking about it.  There are some photos of what appears to be bundles being delivered, or bundles that appear to be someplace that might be Iraq.  But with computers today, well, this is evidence and not proof.  An example of something similar might be the Hitler Diaries.

2. My intuition tells me this just isn’t right. If you’ve read the book Blink, this idea is probably familiar.  Would this really be possible?  Would an Army guy really do something like this?  It’s not a registered non-profit organization, it’s running from and not it’s own domain, the guy signs things IBOL Guy instead of using his own name, etc.  Something just seems, well, wrong with this.  An example of this might be the Salamander Letter.

And really, there’s nothing I can say to fully counter these.  But, there are a couple of things that I can say.

1.  If you have questions, just ask.  Does this entire thing really run without any cash or funding?  It sure does.  Is it really just me and a few others?  Absolutely.  Am I really brazen enough to just have people send an unknown number of bundles my way, thinking I can get them distributed across northern Iraq?  Yep.  So, leave a comment, and engage me on email.  Shoot, we can talk on Skype or the phone, if you really want.    I fully understand how crazy IBOL must sound, and I have no problems talking about all aspects of IBOL — sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this whole effort, for more than a year, has been based on full-disclosure.

2.  If it helps, try taking a scientific approach to looking at IBOL.  Pick one of the two competing hypothesis’ — IBOL is legit, or IBOL is a scam — and then examine the available evidence.  I think you’ll find that the evidence support a theory that IBOL is legitimate, though it’ll always be just that — a theory.

If, in the end, IBOL just doesn’t seem right, well, don’t get involved.  I’m not asking people to get involved; I’m offered to connect those who want to be involved.  This whole thing started with me having this crazy idea that, with what I do for a living, I might be able to facilitate some good (see Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, for more on mavens and connectors).  If t sounds too good to be true, well, I’ll totally understand.  I often think the same thing, but that just makes me smile.


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17 Responses to “Yes, IBOL could be a complete scam”

  1. Carol Says:

    How absurd. If someone asks you to send MONEY, or credit card numbers, think scam. If someone asks for leftover bits of cloth and thread… um, not so much. I sincerely doubt IBOL Guy is going to take these bundles of cloth and…. what? start his own fabric store? Cut fabric has no commercial value and can’t be returned.


  2. Darcene Says:

    I was thoroughly reamed over this on a quilting website and the post has now been taken down as too political and a probable scam….If the Iraqi women find a way to kill others with bits of fabric, lace, thread and yarn, well so be it….I now have 14 boxes packed and ready to mail….

    Peace will prevail and I choose to be a part of the solution as opposed to being a part of the problem.

    • obscure Says:

      14 boxes! Wow, I wish I had as much to give (and could afford to). How can anyone tihnk this is a scam? Guess I’m more of a Pollyanna than I thought.

      Rock on IBOL guy, and gals and guys and kittehs!

  3. IBOL Guy Says:

    I figured this was worth us talking about. It came up last time, too. Ours is an era of internet scams, of people emptying their bank accounts, of ponzi schemes and Bernard Madoff. I totally understand that someone could look at IBOL, and have their doubts. I am totally OK with that. Part of my role in all this, is to give feedback and provide information; if I do that right, fewer have doubts, fewer have questions, and more see and understand their role in the greater effort.

  4. Edwina J Muray Says:

    Isnt it amazing that a person can do an act of charity once and it is accepted. But dare to repeat it and suddenly you become a vulture looking for food! I looked at it and saw Women helping Women in the most wonderful way. Regardless of religion, race, country or anything else standing in their way. We are so blessed in this country to have more than we need, I know I sure do, we should be happy to share it with whomever we choose and wherever it is needed. And quilters are the most generous people in the world! I am sure this will spread to other countries and become a huge success to help where it is needed most.

    Thank you!

  5. Mary ann Says:

    I started to laugh as I started to read this post but then I realized it was for real. That made me sad but then your transparency and good nature took over. So I hope anyone who has doubts will look at the photos and stories from IBOL1 and email and ask questions and join us as we bundle on on!

  6. Marge Says:

    I look at it as a way of getting rid of fabric I no longer want and am giving it to someone who really needs it and can put it to good use. The other things I happen to throw in the box are things I just happen to have picked up somewhere and never used. And scam or not, it gives me a good feeling to participate. Sure it might be a scam, but what isn’t these days. It’s the nicest scam I’ve ever fallen prey to!

  7. Dawn Says:

    you know, the same sort of thing comes up when i see someone panhandling…how do i know they’re not a scam artist, or going to spend it on dope or alcohol? my policy is, to go with my gut and if it turns out to be a scam, that’s the recipient’s responsibility.
    i really appreciate your extending to us the opportunity to do something tangible to help my sisters halfway around the world. as well as your ability to respond amicably to suspicions such as this one. as far as i am concerned, the evidence supports the legitimacy of the mission. i have not seen any evidence to the contrary. and i am excited to be a part of it!

  8. DianeY Says:

    If I was going to create a scam, I’d sure hope to come up with something more lucrative to myself than sending fabric to the other side of the world! I can’t believe anyone could think such a project is anything but on the up & up. I’m embarassed you even need to address this, but you did a wonderful job!

    • IBOL Guy Says:

      You know, if I was going to try and rig a scam, I’m probably ask people to have ice cream delivered. My true weakness — rocky road and chocolate chip ice cream.

  9. Margaret Cunningham Says:

    Could you please send me the APO address. I sent boxes last time and am happy to send some this time. Keep up the good work. Also, can I share the address with my quilting friends who would also like to send boxes? Thanks, Maggie

  10. Kate Says:

    nah, the real scammers are the fabric stores that lured us in and sold us fabric over and over – and KEEP luring us in – we can’t resist and they love us to keep coming back!

    Working on my box this evening -had to stop because it was too hot in the little room, so will finish in the morning….

  11. Terry Grant Says:

    Ibol guy is real. I’ve seen him. I know his wife. He has adorable children who missed him when he was in Iraq. Regular nice guy. Not a scam.

    Now, of course, I could be some kind of made up person, vouching for another made up person, but I’m not.

  12. stephanie allgood Says:

    I’m happy to help, so send me the address! (Forgot to ask for it in my other comment!)

    I think you’re terrific for getting us involved- it helps to keep the costs of war in our thoughts as we help others recover. Sister to sister!! Love that!!

  13. PA_Quilter Says:

    I’m in! Please send me the address.

  14. Shanley Says:

    Please send the address (for bundles not ice cream deliveries).

  15. The Slapdash Sewist Says:

    Heh. Enjoyable post. I’d say the best indicia of truthfulness here is the resale value of the items solicited–it is practically nil, and adding in the cost to sell them (list on ebay, etsy, whatever) would actually cost the scammer money!

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